My reading habit for leisure books (not including magazines or more serious Christian books) is like this: one book during my breaks at work, one before bed. So if you find me reading a book at other times, I have fallen in love.
The most recent one that I surrendered my evening hours to is called Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers. It’s the first Christian novel I read and finished. I didn’t have a positive opinion of Christian fiction before. I didn’t know many Christian fiction writers to start with. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is too unconventional Christian, with all the magic, angelic beings and walking trees. C. S. Lewis’ Narnia is too standard and typical Christian. I had trouble picturing an imaginative but faithful Christian fiction.
Redeeming Love dispels my stereotype. It’s based on the Old Testament book of Hosea, but not an elaboration on the book itself (bear in mind Hosea is a prophetic book written largely in the form of speech, rather than history anyway). It’s mainly about one girl’s life, Angel, how she started her life in a dark and evil environment, but was changed by people around and by God in mind, body, heart and soul.
It’s brilliant for evangelism. More than one colleague asked what I was reading – no one ever asked me what you, as a Christian, believe. So, to be sociable and friendly (which I am always), I “had” to explain to them, it was about how a man rescued and married this prostitute girl, and loved her wholeheartedly as a wife, but this girl did not understand why he sacrificed so much for her, especially when she didn’t love him one bit nor worthy of his love as a prostitute. She then tried to be good and pay him back by doing a lot of housework and farm work, but all he wanted was her relationship and love as a wife. All the while I was explaining this, a voice screamed inside, “this is exactly what God and people are like!”
If this is not intriguing enough or too much textbook-like for you, the process of God replacing a heart of stone with a heart of flesh is so delicate, honest and moving, I felt like I received a new heart with her. I felt the hatred and pain in her, felt ashamed, torn and desperate with her, lay under the starry night and watched the sunrise on a hilltop full of emotions with her, had the thrill of “melting with one look” from her husband, sowed seeds and chased birds, laughed and cried, ran away and came home with her, understanding God’s redeeming love once again.
P.S Maybe I should have a God box too and I’ll write down, “God please give me a friend like Miriam and Susanna”.